Saturday, March 28, 2015

Great Flavor, Extra Protein, and Vegetarian! Eggplant and Lobia Makhani for Meatless Monday.

   There are days when one is looking for an answer to the question "what to cook?" That doesn't happen all too often around our house but when it does, I go trolling to some of my favorite friends' sites to see what they've been up to looking for inspiration or an easy recipe. That is exactly what I found at my friend Sanjanas site K O Rasoi. She happened to be featuring a delicious looking Eggplant Makhani, but what sold me on the dish immediately was the fact that it could be made in my slow cooker in 3 freaking hours!!!!!!!

   Slow cooker, reasonable cooking time you had me at 3 hours!!! I knew this would be the perfect dish for a meatless Monday. Not only that but I'm nearly done with chemo, (only 3 more weeks to go) and so my energy is not the greatest, this slow cooker business sounded better and better. I'm also dealing with anemia which is a side effect of the chemo and so I decided to tweak the dish a bit by adding in some extra protein hit in the form of black eyed peas aka lobia. Chances are you have almost everything for this recipe right in your kitchen now, even if you don't do tons of Indian cooking. With that said, on to the recipe.

Eggplant, and Lobia Makhani served with Rice with Whole Spices

Here's What You'll Need: 

3 whole eggplants
1 package of frozen black eyed peas, or one 16 oz can
2  500grm bottles of passata (seived tomatoe pulp) you can find this at any market usually where the canned tomatoes or pasta sauce is sold. (I got mine at Whole Foods )
2 Tbs tomato paste
4 whole shallots finely chopped
1 Tbs grated ginger
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp garam masala
the seeds out of 6 cardamom pods, finely ground
1/4 tsp ground fennel seeds
3 small dried  red chilies finely chopped
50 grms melted unsalted butter
1 and 1/2 Tbs of sugar
3 tsp salt
100 ml of whipping cream
1 tsp of crumbled dried methi
toasted flaked almonds for garnish
chopped fresh cilantro to garnish

Here's What To Do:

Wash and chop your eggplants into 1 inch squares.

Put them into your slow cooker.

Add in the finely chopped ginger.

Chop and mince the shallots, add them to the eggplant in the slow cooker.

Pour in the bottles of sieved tomato pulp.

Add in the tomato paste.

Add in the ground coriander and garam masala.

Crush the cardamom pods.

Take out the seeds, grind them and toss them in.
Grind the fennel seeds.

Toss them in too.

Add in the chopped dried red chilies.

Add in the salt and sugar add in the melted butter.

Stir everything around so all the spices are well mixed together.

Turn on the slow cooker to high and the timer to three hours.

After an hour and a half, give everything a good stir, check and see how your eggplants are coming along.
Add in the black eyed peas
Then go about your business, this is Me Time.
When 3 hours are up check your eggplants, nice and tender?
Add in the whipping cream...

...and the ground methi.

Check your seasoning and add salt if needed.
Stir everything together and serve it up! Decorate each plate with a sprinkled of the slivered almonds and sprinkle of the chopped fresh cilantro.

I served my eggplant with Basmati rice with whole spices. You can add roti or naan bread or whatever you wish. You can even make this ahead of time (night before) and just rewarm it on the stove. Delightful, warm, spicy, the perfect early spring  slow cooker meal for a Meatless Monday.

   I want to thank Sanjana for turning me on to this amazing dish which was literally just what the doctor ordered for me! It allowed me the extra protein I needed, without  bothering with meat. This is staying in the permanent rotation at our house. I even froze the leftovers. What's next? More super easy dishes because...why not!? Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Something Green for St. Paddy's Day...Broccomole!

   As a native Californian I grew up eating and loving  avocados. I know there are people out there who don't see things that way. There are actually people who can't stand the taste or feel of avocado, and I've even seen them wonder what is it good for? Absolutely everything as far as I'm concerned. I can't get enough avocado.
   Yes, avocados are full of fats but they're the good fats. They're also high in protein, and vitamins, everything from potassium, to Vitamins E and B. They are champs. They are what is known as a nutrient-dense food in that they provide a whole lotta bang (the good healthy stuff) for very little buck (aka calories). I have to admit I eat a lot of avocados as part of my daily diet, especially since I am currently in my last month of chemo it's important to stay strong and nourished. However, as great as the avocado is, there's another champ out there, maybe a little less popular and less known to hang out in the dip bowls at bars, and that is broccoli.
   Yes, broccoli, it's green like avocado, full of vitamins and antioxidents, has even less calories... but yes it still is broccoli. Personally, I happen to like broccoli., and I've eaten it in a variety of dishes. I thought I'd done broccoli almost anyway one could do it until my friend Tim Connelly in New York tweeted me about Broccomole. Tim wasn't sure whether I'd given him the recipe, (no I did not) or he'd given it to me before (no way, That I would remember) but all of a sudden broccomole, a guacamole made with broccoli was on my radar, and I had to try it.
   In making my broccomole however, I decided that no ordinary broccoli would do. I was going to go above and beyond mere broccoli, I was going to go romanesco. In case you haven't ever seen a romanesco before, this is romanesco.

It's also known as the fractal vegetable. In short, the vegetable most likely to be enjoyed by any of the characters on The Big Bang Theory.
   I found my perfect organic romanesco at Whole Foods and the game was afoot. I was going to turn my romanesco into a south of the border treat, or die trying. As a matter of quick explanation, the romanesco is a sort of baroque cauliflower/ broccoli which originated in Italy. It's sort of like a cauliflower, but it's not, and sort of looks like broccoli, but it's not. I decided to use it for my broccolmole but if you can't find one, good old broccoli will do just fine.



Here's What You Need:

 1 head of broccoli or 1 romanesco. Either way it should all come down to about 3 cups of cut up broccoli.
1 jalepeno seeded and chopped
2 Tbs green onions, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
2 oz of something creamy. Here you can use, soft tofu, cream cheese, Mexican crema, sour cream, yogurt, you name it.
1/4 tsp Kashmiri chili
1 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp salt
 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Here's What To Do:

Wash your broccoli or romanesco.

Chop it up. You'll need 3 cups.

Steam your broccoli or romanesco until it's tender. You want to get it a lot softer than al dente.

Once it's steamed, drain it well and let it cool a moment.

Chop up your green onions.

Put the steamed broccoli or the romanesco into a food processor along with the chopped onions, salt and other ingredients except for the sour cream tofu (or whatever creamy stuff you're adding in.)

Process it unitl it's smooth, then add in your creamy ingredient. I chose sour cream.

Add in the chili...


...and that's it. Check the flavor for seasoning and serve it up with your favorite chips.

I used some sweet potato chips from Whole Foods. Now, this does not taste like guacamole, because well, it's broccomole and there's the difference. But you can still dip and chip and it's tasty, and good for you!

   Check it out. I warned Tim that I'd better like it, and what do you know, I did. I'm not giving up guacamole for it, but it's a great change up alternative, and a painless way of getting your broccoli requirement. Coming up next, more easy tricks with Indian food and some intriguing spices from a new source.. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hair or Not, Here's The Problem

As someone going through chemo right now, who also has a full head of hair (let's not talk about the color of my roots, at least I have roots) I was very gratified to see the story below in the NY Times this morning.…/09/keeping-your-hair-in-ch…/

The thing that everyone who's diagnosed with cancer asks, maybe not first... first is usually "What are my chances? or Did you get it all?" The next question is always, and trust me I've now been to this goat-roping twice, "What happens to my hair? Will I lose it?"
Now the first time I went through this 25 years ago, I didn't tell anyone I had cancer or was having treatment until it was all over with. I got the guy who made Madonna's wigs for Dick Tracy to make a human hair wig to match my own, I was lucky enough to be able to do that, plus I laid low for a certain amount of time. Writers can do that too. Who wants to look at us anyway? As for the various needle marks, band aids, bruises and tracks on my arms from the chemo infusions, to me, being considered a junkie was better than people knowing I had cancer. We were worried about our employment prospects ( Alan and I are screenwriters and we work as a team). Back then people who had cancer didn't talk about it very much because back then people didn't equate cancer with survival. Cancer meant you were cooked, pitying glances, how much time has she got? A movie of the week scenario. Plus, I certainly wasn't going to talk about it at the time as even with chemo, I was given a poor prognosis. Yeah, I'm the dude with two minutes to live, hire me!
We knew so much less back in those days and yes, I had a very aggressive form of cancer, which today is known as triple negative, which also sounds like a Vin Deisel movie. So why am I here typing this? Because of the few varieties of chemo available at the time I happened to be given the one that worked for me. In fact a recent study that someone sent me, told me that the long term survivors of my type of cancer had all been given CMF. The one chemical name I remember about CMF was the last part, which is flouruorusomething but lovingly referred to by us patients as FU! Highly appropriate.
Ok, so 25 years later I'm dealing with this again, only this time not Triple Negative, but HER2 positive. Once again the same questions, this time in my case, with better answers then the last time mainly due to the invention of Taxol and Herceptin and early diagnosis. Which brings me to those ice hats currently being featured in the Times.
I happen to use those hats, and they work. They are no walk in the park, they are time consuming, painful, and expensive as they are not covered by insurance. But what they are is not about vanity, not about looking great, and twirling ones hair around like a shampoo ad. They are about privacy and dignity at a time when many people find that in short supply.
One of the first things anyone dealing with a serious illness, (no matter what it is) loses is privacy and dignity. Patients are so used to being told to get undressed, stand here, let me see this that or the other, and hey, meet this new group of residents who want to take a peek at your private parts. Think of it as being permanently on TMZ . Nothing is private.
Being able to use the cold caps to keep one's hair during treatment gives one the ability to not have to share their medical condition with everyone, total strangers and friends alike. It gives one the power of choice, something very few cancer patients get to exercise during treatment. It gives one the ability to continue along with ones work without being questioned, to go into a market and shop without being stared at or pitied. To not have to deal with the quick flick away of the eyes, and the lowered glance.
Now, sure people say, what about a wig? Wigs work, yes they do, but if someone all of a sudden shows up at work with a wig and it's not Halloween there are going to be questions. Questions one might not want to have to answer or be asked. That is why these caps are so important to those of us who use them, and why we are so grateful for them. Not vanity, because I sure as hell have had my share of bad hair days my entire life, and I am no beauty.
It's the right not to be questioned about my health unless I choose to mention it. It's the right not to have my job threatened. Cancer treatment has advanced greatly in the last 25 years and depending one one's protocol, many people work right through treatment and feel just fine.
These caps need to be available to anyone who might need them. They need to be covered by insurance as a medical necessity. This is not a put down of those who choose a wig, or who choose to go bold and bald, that is a proud statement, but not a statement everyone is capable of or ready to make.
Wearing a cold cap is not a denial of illness. I know (as do the others who wear these hats) that I'm sick. I'm being treated for a serious illness. I can't sit in a chemo chair for 5 and 1/2 hours once a week without knowing that. I'm certainly not bullshitting myself. I just want other people dealing with cancer to be able to have the one thing that fate, luck, or whatever has taken from us and that's choice. The FDA needs to get with the program that has been used successfully for years in Europe. This should not just be available for those that can afford to do it, or are lucky enough to get into a trial study. It should be a choice offered to everyone, when they have stepped into a world where choices have become limited.
By the way..obviously the lady below is not me..

I should look so good. I do not wear makeup with a cold cap and my skin is covered with Dr. Scholls footpads to prevent frost bite, but other than that I'm all about the jazz hands.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Fast, Healthy and Vegan. Chickpea, Mango, and Coconut Salad.

   Sometimes you just want something to be easy. Sometimes you just wanna say what the hell, I'll nuke something, or open a can, or whatever. This last week was one of those weeks for me. I'm nearly halfway through my chemo, still firing on all cylinders. In fact on Sunday I did three miles. The problem was Monday. Monday I felt lower than whale shit. The chemo side effects and I tangled for a couple of days, now I'm pretty much back to normal. Pretty much means I didn't want to do a whole lot of cooking. I wanted things that were nourishing and above all EASY! That's where this salad comes in.
   If one has the time and the inclination, one can soak ones garbanzos in tepid water for 24 hours, which sounds more suggestive than it is. Then comes the boiling and simmering and voila!  Salad ready chickpeas. Or, you can do what I did and open a can of organic chickpeas from Whole Foods and be done with it. If you do that, you can be dining on this salad in like 20 minutes. So here how to do exactly that.

Chickpea, Mango, and Coconut Salad

Here's What You Need:
1 16oz can of chickpeas
2 tsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal
1 dried red chili pepper
1 tsp chopped curry leaves
2 Tbs grated fresh or dried unsweetened coconut
1 serrano chili minced
1/2 green mango peeled and cut into slices, plus more for julienning
1 handful of grapes
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbs chopped cilantro
1 pinch of hing (asafoetida)
1/4 cup of roast unsalted whole peanuts (optional)

Here's What To Do:
If you're using canned chickpeas, rinse them in cool water, and drain them. You may need to rinse them gently several times.
Heat the coconut oil in a saute pan or kadhai.
When the oil is hot add in the mustard seeds and urad dal.

When they start to sizzle and pop, toss in the dried red chili.and curry leaves.

Stir everything around for a minute or so, then add in your drained chickpeas...

...1/2 tsp of salt, and a pinch of hing.

Saute everything together for about 3 minutes then take the pan off the heat.
Add in the coconut...

...Mango julienne...

Chopped red grapes...

And finally the zest...

...and juice of 1 lemon...

...and finally the peanuts.

Stir everything together well.
Then peel and thinly slice your mango.

Arrange the peeled slices fan like on a plate.
Add the chickpea coconut salad mixture to the top of that.
Sprinkle with a bit of chopped fresh cilantro and serve it up.

   It's that simple, that fast, and a perfectly tropical relaxing treat for when life seems to be kicking you ass. Coming up next, more very easy dishes that can be made quickly, without too much muss and fuss. Follow along on Twitter at @kathygori

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Silere Alpine Origin Lamb from New Zealand.....The Lord of The Lambs!!!

   Lamb. What's in a name? Quite a lot actually as I found out just last weekend when the kind people at Marx foods offered me a chance to sample something I'd never heard of before. Silere Alpine Origin Merino Lamb. To be honest, I've never made a study of lamb. I know about chicken, beef, fish certainly, and lots and lots about various vegetables. But lamb is just lamb, right? The only thing I knew about Merino lamb was that I have a drawer full of Merino wool sweaters. As it turns out I was wrong. There's a lot to learn about lamb and I was about to get an education.
   I don't eat a great deal of meat, in fact most of the last year I've been on a vegetarian if not vegan diet. Recently however, I've decided to incorporate a bit of meat into my eating, and on occasion, also add some dairy. I've been careful to use grass-fed, naturally-raised meats and only pastured dairy products. Luckily, living here in the heart of California Wine Country, that's not been hard to come by. We're surrounded by ranches and farms. However as it turns out, some of the best lamb in the world doesn't come from here or any where near here. It comes from Middle Earth.

   Actually I'm talking about New Zealand, home of Peter Jackson and Lord of the Rings and some of the damnedest fine lamb anyone could possibly enjoy. As a screenwriter I'm used to thinking of New Zealand like this:

As a chef I've now learned to think of it like this:

Viggo, delicious:

Silere Alpine Origin Merino Lamb, also delicious but in a different way.

Yes, they're ready for their close-up.

   You can't get more natural than Alpine grazed meat, and the Merino lamb I found to have a much lighter flavor, not fatty or gamy. Most of the time In cooking lamb, the meat overpowers almost everything which is why people pair it with strong flavors such a mint. The Silere lamb I cooked was leaner, delicate, and the flavors blended perfectly with the Indian spices I used. I decided that we should share this lamb with friends and who better than the people who make CocoaPlanet chocolate. I knew Anne and Jeff would be great lamb judges as they both have excellent palates. It was the prefect excuse for a dinner party, not that I need much encouragement. I'm always ready to cook!

  Cooking the Silere lamb was the easy part, as one does not want to do too much so that the meat stays tender and juicy. I could then devote some thought to a proper sauce which turned out to be a Sikandari Raan, a delicately flavored traditional sauce with a North Indian / Afghan influence. The sauce is very easy to make and can definitely be made ahead. Since the lamb cooks up quickly this is a great time saver. The perfect company dinner.

Silere Alpine Grazed Merino Lamb In Sikandari Sauce

Here's What You Need:
4 Silere Alpine Grazed Merino Lamb Loins
1 and 1/2 tsp Kashmiri chili
4 tbs coconut oil, or other vegetable oil

 3 cloves
4 green cardamom pods
3 black cardamom pods
A 2 inch stick of cinnamon
2 star anise
1 bay leaf
4 medium onions thinly sliced
2 tsp ground coridaner
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 cup of yogurt

Here's What To Do:
Put on your onion goggles and start slicing the onions... this:

Set them aside.

In a kadhai or skillet heat 4 Tbs of coconut or vegetable oil.

When the oil is hot, toss in the star anise, green and black cardamom pods, the bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon stick.

Saute the spices for one minute. They'll start to puff up a bit, then toss in your sliced onions.

Cook the onions until they're translucent and soft, then add in the Kashmiri Chili powder.

Add in the ground coriander, cumin, and turmeric and tomato paste.

Saute everything until the oil starts to separate from the sauce. Add in the salt.

When everything is well mixed, remove the bay leaf and put everything else into a blender or food processor.

Grind it up really well you want to avoid any hard pieces of spice left over. You can pour it through a strainer or cheese cloth to prevent this.
Set your sauce aside. If you are going to use it later or the next day, keep it covered in the fridge.
Before you cook your lamb make sure to bring it to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees
I found that the best way to cook this lamb was to sear it in hot hot hot cast iron and then finish it in the oven. One wants the internal temperature to be about 125 degrees for medium rare lamb.
Salt and pepper the lamb loins on both sides.
Place an empty, heavy, cast iron pan on the fire and heat that baby up.
When it's hot, hot, hot, lay the lamb loins in it fat side down. Cook them for about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, as you see in the background, I'm heating the sauce on simmer. When it warms up, add in the yogurt, 1/4 cup at a time. The idea here is to make surer the sauce is smooth creamy and not overpoweringly hot. It depends no how much chili you or your guests like. The yogurt tames things down to whatever level one desires.
After about 4 minutes, turn the loins over and cook them on the other side for another four minutes.
After that take the whole pan and put it into the oven for another 10 minutes or so to finish.

Use a meat thermometer. When the lamb is 125 degrees inside, it's done medium rare unless you like it more well done, in which case, back into the oven for another few minutes.
After you take the meat out of the oven let it rest for about 10 minutes.
Slice the meat into medallions.

Brush a layer of the sikandari sauce across one side of the plate, and lay the medallions on it.

Adjust them.

Drizzle a bit of the sauce across the top of the meat and serve it up.

I served this dish with Basmati rice with whole spices, Indian spinach and corn.

   I served a salad of spiced chickpeas with mango and grapes as a starter. It was amazing. The  spices in the sauce accented the lamb, but did not overpower it, and vice versa. The meat was succulent, juicy, and tender. I am now totally hooked on this amazing grass fed lamb which is so easily prepared. In fact it takes such a little bit of cooking to be perfect, it's hard to mess up. I'm two steps away from wanting to move to New Zealand.

   This is the lamb, that a Hobbit would enjoy and you know how much they love to eat!!!

I'd love to share more lamb recipes with you if you'll just click on the link and give me your vote for my recipe in the   Marx Food Silere Lamb Contest   I'd really appreciate it!
   I'd like to thank the Becca Lee and all great folks at Marx Foods and Silere Alpine Origin Lamb for allowing me this amazing tasting experience, thanks for spoiling me. Coming up next, great sides to serve with great lamb follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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